Do Dinosaurs Still Exist?
Recently Obtained Anecdotal Accounts of "Big Birds" and "Pterosaurs"by Ron Schaffner
Within the new millennium, Cryptozoology is beginning to lose many of the fringe elements on its track to a more scientific discipline. While some still talk about "monsters" and "things that go bump in the night," there have been recent trends to try to identify these anomalies within prosaic possibilities.
Drawing from Account 4 below
In this respect, it allows us the possibility of discovering something truly unique. Some interesting theories have been set forth with good logic to indicate that some of the older unexplained reports are misinterpretations of known animals.
The majority of the witnesses are probably sincere in what they reported, but are hampered by poor visual perception and personal belief systems. Also, one cannot completely eliminate the out-right hoaxer and the occasional yarn told by some of the general public. Sincerity is no guarantee of truthfulness.
It is paramount for the initial investigator to gather all the facts without any personal bias and to stay away from leading questions. It is equally important that the investigator refrain from telling the witnesses about legends and theories. Only after all possibilities are eliminated, can the report be labeled unexplainable.
Of all the Cryptozoological reports, the 'giant birds' (or Thunderbirds, as some cryptozoologist affectionately call them) are often the most difficult to evaluate. Like UFOs, it is difficult to determine height, speed and distance. Alleged photographic and video evidence can also be difficult to evaluate because of the trickery that can be applied from computer graphics.
With all the recorded media on prehistoric bird accounts and the circulation of science fiction works, the majority of us have that scenario locked somewhere in our subconscious.
Witnesses' descriptions can vary in appearance depending on distance. In fact, attempting to measure the distance between witness and the anomaly is almost impossible to ascertain. In the past, the old method was holding a familiar object at arm's length to determine size and distance. This has its drawbacks, as it exaggerates the true size.
A method I often use for size and distances of a ground object, is to use the distances between telephone poles for gauging. Be dubious of any witness who claims 500 yards or more, as this highly distorts any accurate description.
Raptors (eagles, hawks, etc.) and Waders (herons, egrets, etc.) make up the vast majority of misinterpretations of Thunderbird reports. These animals have pronounced wingspans, bills and legs that could be misidentified as a prehistoric bird, especially while in flight. A raptor's wingspan can easily be exaggerated. It's easy to mistake feathers for skin, especially if the lighting conditions are not favorable. Therefore, it is imperative for the investigator to keep an up-to-date field guide on birds in book form.
Remember - we only get to study the reports of these large flying creatures - not the creatures themselves. Prior to the release of the movie "Mothman Prophecies," Screen Gems Productions asked me to put a promo on my web site with information on the script and several graphics, which I did. During this time and after the movie came to the cinemas, I received several reports of Thunderbirds, including an email from someone in Alabama that alleged a similar creature in the south.
Email is an excellent way to get instant information and correspondence, but the problem remains of not doing a personal interview. On-the-spot investigations and interviews are the best method of finding out if a possible hoax is involved.
Using legends, such as Native American folklore, to support the existence of these large avian does not necessarily give proof that these "birds" are around today, or were even there in the past. It's equally possible that our ancestors misinterpreted the many known raptors that we are familiar with.
Chad Arment and I thought that these reports and some possible explanations would make an excellent article in the North American BioFortean Review. Some of these reports do not contain enough data to evaluate correctly. Only one report made the cryptozoological circles, which came out of Alaska.
Another report comes from Orin, Wyoming, in which I had an extensive email correspondence with the witnesses. Nick Sucik investigated another out of Wisconsin. Scott Norman received several reports right after the Alaskan "giant bird" report. So, the reader can see that these reports have not been released beforehand.
As you will see, some reports cannot be easily identified with the information at hand. Unfortunately, we have to rely on the witnesses' descriptions, drawing composites or we have to show drawings of known birds or pterosaurs, which is still leading, but sometimes can't be avoided.
Account 1: Wyoming
A couple in Wyoming reported the following: "First, I would like to start by saying I am not a delusional person, nor is my husband. We are normal people who happened to see an extraordinary creature. He and I were on our way from Sheridan, Wyoming, to Chadron, Nebraska, to pick up his kids for a visit. We were on a very tight schedule, his ex-wife was a very uncooperative person who looked for any excuse to cause turmoil.
"When we exited I-25 near Orin, Wyoming, we briefly stopped at a rest area. We returned to the car, and just as we entered the highway (the one that runs between Lusk and Chadron) I noticed a large animal in a field. I pointed it out to my husband, and he was so intrigued, we pulled off to watch the creature.
It stood - my estimate is about 5 feet tall, husband estimates 6 feet. It was greenish grey and appeared to be a pterodactyl. We sat by the side of the road for about 20 minutes watching the thing. It sat and flexed and stretched its wings, each of which were as long as its body was tall.
It also turned its head several times, looking out across the field. We stayed as long as we could and we did stop again on our return trip home, but the thing was gone. On subsequent trips we watched for the creature, but never saw it again. "We told a few people about it, and of course, they all laughed.
I want to emphasize, we don't want our names in the papers or to be celebrities, we just want to know what it was we saw on that nice late fall day. If you can help, please get in touch, we're anxious to find the answer."
In answer to subsequent questions:
Denise G.: "I guess I can start. It was late fall, around Thanksgiving of 1993. The weather was mid-40s - I remember commenting about how warm it was for the time of year as I was smoking outside of the car at the rest area.
It was slightly overcast but visibility was excellent. The area we were in is approximately one mile east of the rest area, which is located at the junction oI-25 and U.S. 18-20. This is a guess because I can't read the intersections on the map, but it is the junction off of I-25 going east into Lusk, Wyoming. I believe we were about 2 blocks to the north of the creature.
It was 'crouching' in an open field adjacent to the highway. We observed the animal for at least 20 minutes before we had to go due to schedule. It turned its head from side to side so that would be: it was facing north towards us, turned its head to look east, west and north. The topography of the area is mostly flat grasslands. The area it was in is an open field that is flat with very little brush."
Scott G. noted that he thought the animal was about 50 yards away. The time of the sighting was about 12 noon. Upon asking further questions, the following answers were provided: "The maps you sent are correct, that is the area where we saw the creature.
We will do our best to answer your questions, I seem to remember more than my husband, especially color and texture details.
"1. The head was not the same shape of that of a raptor such as an eagle. The beak was much more substantial, without a sharp hook on the end. The head and beak were not delicate in any way, but more like that of a horse. No, it wasn't a horse. I mean it was bulky and thick.
"2. I estimate the wing span as at least 5 feet. Scott doesn't remember the wings very well. The wing looked like thick leathery bat-like wings, but not exactly like those of a bat. Bat wings look thin and delicate - there was nothing about this creature that was thin or delicate.
"3. The wings were not like those of a bird. No feathers. It was hard to tell how they were situated at rest because we were looking at it straight on, not from the side.
"4. & 5. The skin of the animal was thick and leathery, no feathers. I describe the color as light olive drab greenish/gray. The torso and legs were thick and powerful. The torso looked shiney, but the skin was not tight across the body. I don't recall the feet. The creature looked powerful enough that we decided against leaving the car to take a closer look, it really wasn't an option.
"6. We are not dinosaur aficionados. We have seen the first two Jurassic Park movies and have see illustrations of prehistoric birds in books and on the Discovery Channel. We describe our creature as a beefier version of those typically shown in the media.
"7. I am vaguely familiar with the thunderbird legends, but I don't recall any details of them. Scott doesn't know anything about the legends."
Concerning the local habitat: "Yes, there are bluffs and cliffs in the area, easily within a 30-40 mile radius. Many can be seen from the interstate and state highways."
Upon showing a picture of a sand hill crane: "No, not really. The pic you sent shows a bird that has a pointed beak, the one we saw had a more blunt beak. Also the head seems small and the neck of the 'bird' we saw was thicker."
Upon showing an illustration of a Pterosaurs image: "Ok, we are getting closer, that looks like the 'bird,' but the one we saw didn't have such a big 'horn' on the back of its head."
Account 2: Vietnam
"When in Vietnam, my outfit saw this big bird flying overhead. It was in the middle of the day and he stayed with us for quite awhile as we were humping the mountains. It was black and yellow, with the beak similar to the pterodactyl species. The N. V. A. scouts were really afraid of the bird. Have you had any other reports similar to this?"
"The bird soared about 20 feet above the trees and was about 30 yards away from me. I am not in contact with anyone from my old outfit. I figure the wingspan was about 12 feet or more. This was in the central highlands in 1970."
In response to further questions: "I was with Co. A 3/12th 4th Division in the Pleiku - An Khe area in early 1970. That location was in the Central Highlands. I do not recall any feathers. My friend had taken a picture but cannot locate it."
Account 3: California
"Hello. My closest friend has seen a creature (along with her sister). This is very frustrating to me because I know it's true. My friend is very credible. She is a college graduate, very honest and is serious when trying to explain it. She doesn't like to tell many people because of how they will react.
"It happened in Thermal, CA, in 1983. Her parents had a farm and their dog, Duke (Doberman Pincher) was tied to a leash, barking violently. They let him go, thinking that it was a coyote or rabbit.
The dog ran around the house, but stopped short and continued to bark. Both my friend and her sister ran toward the dog and in front of them stood a 6-foot winged, featherless creature. The body was very muscular, like a man. But the skin was leathery like an elephant. It had long nails at the end of its toes. The head was the shape of a pterodactyl with red bulging eyes and protruding bone in the front and back of its head.
"It turned and looked at my friend and her sister and crouched down, tucked its wings in and flew off. The wings were so big you could hear them flap in the wind as if flew away. The dog chased it till he lost sight of it.
"Do you know of any other cases similar to this one?"
Account 4: Michigan
Investigator Nick Sucik contributes: "Robert F. claims that during the second week of July in 1969, he and a friend were out on Lake Dewey in the Sisters Lakes Region of Michigan when suddenly 'everything turned dark.'
They both looked up and caught sight of an enormous creature flying overhead. It managed to clear the remainder of the lake by slowly flapping its huge wings only twice.
He thought it had more of a leathery type of skin and didn't notice any feathers. Seemed confident enough it was a 'pterosaur' (and even drew the distinct hood behind the head) though it's easy to see how under excitement one is quick to affiliate the spectacle of a gigantic bird as something of a prehistoric nature."....
Source: Excerpted from Issue # 9 Of the North American Biofortean Review Chad Arment, publisher